Their Acceptance Is Not Worth Your Freedom

I spent much of my life trying to hide who I was, convinced I wasn’t worthy of being loved. After all, if I had been worthy of love, then people who said they loved me wouldn’t have left. Wouldn’t have betrayed me. Wouldn’t have hurt me. It became clear that to be loved I would have to hide my true self; this girl with the fierce mind, wild spirit and poet’s heart.

I learned to hide these things and instead be whatever I needed to be to fit in and gain acceptance. I learned how to make myself the same, how to make myself small, how to make myself submissive. I learned how to make myself silent. I learned how to conform.

I learned these things will actually gain you the acceptance you’re looking for.

I also learned the cost of that acceptance is freedom.

Their acceptance is not worth your freedom.

There is nothing lonelier than existing separated from who we really are, than spending each day in captivity to the expectations of others, than denying the true heart within us that aches to be set free.

The road to self-acceptance has been a hard one; to finally have arrived at this place where I believe I am worthy of love exactly as I am. Where I will never again settle for anything less. Where I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of all that I am. It has taken me so long to be at peace with both the light and dark in me. To see my scars as victory stripes earned by overcoming every goddamn battle I’ve faced, and not just ugly reminders of how unworthy I am; how unloveable.

Freedom comes when we learn to accept and love who we are, exactly as we are. Including the regrets, the mistakes, the choices we made when we had no other choice. Including the bad days and the messy days and the godforsaken days where darkness wraps itself around us and we take comfort in the bleak heaviness that falls upon our souls. We cannot choose to love only the parts of ourselves we think are acceptable and not the rest, we cannot love ourselves only in pieces and expect to be complete. And if we cannot love ourselves completely, we will never be able to love another that way either.

Becoming our true selves in a conformist world is an act of rebellion. I have lost many people from my life who don’t like that I no longer fit inside their boxes. How dare we be different. How dare we make people uncomfortable. How dare we be so defiant. Fuck the haters. People will rarely tolerate the freedom they see in others that they choose to deny for themselves. And if others are not capable of love without conditions then we are better off without their love. Because once we have truly learned to love ourselves with the kind of love we deserve, we soon realise that anything less than that will never be enough for us anyway.

~ ©️ Kathy Parker ~

And Sometimes This Is Healing

And sometimes healing is oceans upon shorelines; tides that crash upon the thirst of empty sands, replenishing all the midday sun has scorched from our dry bones, made full once more until the moon calls the tide back again and suddenly we, too, feel pulled back to where we once came from. We clench our toes into sand that crumbles beneath our feet, powerless to fight against the grip of the tide; once again at the mercy of waves we can no longer find the strength to keep our head above anymore.

But here’s the thing about the ocean. She is forever a contradiction; wild yet gentle, fierce yet calm, rising yet falling, taking; yet always giving back. A coming together and pulling apart; the universe as it dances to the music of the night sky.

This, too, is how we heal; forward, then back again.

Such is the ebb and flow of our existence.

There is no right way to heal. We will rise, and fall. We will triumph, and fail. One day we will stand on shorelines, soaking saltwater healing into our pores; the next, we will find ourselves pulled below by our pain once more.

We must allow ourselves these undulations; forgive ourselves for the frailty of which we cling to at times. For it’s when we resist these laws of nature we struggle the most; yet is this not what the ocean comes to teach us, whispering her secrets to our parched souls: healing comes the moment we surrender to grace.

~ ©️ Kathy Parker ~

I Am Learning How To Be Lonely

I am learning how to be lonely.

How to not reach for another to lessen this ache in my ribs when I have known no other way.

I am learning how to not fear the silence; to be still with this hollow chest and no longer fill the space you once belonged with shallow distraction.

I am learning things I should already know, but was not taught; instead raised to hold a man’s sovereignty before my own.

I am learning I am more than what I was taught.

I am learning what I am worth.

I am learning I am worth these hard things.

The Woods Are Lovely, Dark and Deep…

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For years, I have been haunted by these words – by their imagery and metaphor, their ambivalence, their struggle, their resolution. By the way they encompass everything I feel; the days I long to dwell in the woods and take comfort in the darkness because it is so much easier than having to show up; than having to fight a never-ending battle to stay one step ahead of the shadows; never far behind me. Because it is so much easier to give in to the heaviness that settles upon me, to get lost in the loneliness of the woods with no desire to be found, than to find the strength to get out of bed and face another day.

But I promised myself I would fight, and never stop fighting, for the life I deserve. For the life my children deserve. To turn the ashes of the generations before me into a structure of strength and beauty that the generations ahead will walk into with sure feet and fierce hearts.

Though some days weak, I am never defeated.

This is my reminder.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

and miles to go before I sleep.

And miles to go before I sleep.”

(Robert Frost)

Thank You for Teaching Me I Was Worth More Than You: An Open Letter to the One Who Nearly Broke Me, But Not Quite

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“You didn’t love her. You just didn’t want to be alone. Or maybe, maybe she was good for your ego. Or maybe she made you feel better about your miserable life. But you didn’t love her, because you don’t destroy the person that you love” (Grey’s Anatomy)

When I look back now, it’s hard to believe I ever thought you loved me. How desperate I must have been to call that love when in your hands I became so small; crushed by the heaviness of your fingers as they pressed into my skin, the imprint faded but still visible after all this time. How eroded my worth became with each crash of furious words that washed against the already worn breakwaters of my heart. How afraid I became of not just you, but of everything I once was that I no longer trusted myself to be, for fear I would take a wrong step and set off another landmine beneath the surface of your skin.

You left that day, stopping only to push the knife in a little deeper on your way out the door. The pain was so great I hoped to bleed out, right there on the floor where you left me. I wondered if I could survive what you had done to me; if I even wanted to. But resilience has always coursed through my veins faster than sorrow and though weak, I found the courage to pick myself up from the floor that day.

It all seems so long ago now. How far I have come since these pale scars were once open wounds. How distant the taste of bitterness upon my tongue now seems. I’ve long since stopped wanting to call, to write, to tell you of all the ways you nearly broke me, but not quite. Instead, I have come to realise should I ever pass by you on the street, there is only two words I would need to say.

Thank you.

Thank you for teaching me I will never again settle for someone who can destroy a woman and call that love; who can not only justify their abuse through victim-blaming, but make a woman believe they actually deserved such abuse.

Thank you for teaching me I will never again be controlled by another in a relationship; that I am the keeper of my own life, my own choices and my own relationships and I’m entitled to live my life with freedom, and not be imprisoned by another person’s power over me.

Thank you for teaching me I need not compromise who I am and all I believe in order to be loved; that I do not need to scrape my knees on the ground of another’s approval, nor ever apologise for who I am to those who choose not to accept me regardless.

Thank you for teaching me I do not need another to complete me; that I am better off being alone than ever being with someone who does not love me with respect, kindness, thoughtfulness, gentleness, acceptance.

Thank you for teaching me never to look back; for all the apologies that didn’t reach your eyes, for all the promises spoken through lying teeth, for all the times I did come back only to end up more shattered by you each time.

Thank you for helping me understand men like you never change.

Thank you for teaching me I deserve more than you.

Thank you for teaching me about love.

The kind of love you could never give.

The kind of love I am worth.

The kind of love I will only ever accept from another so long as they can love me the way I have finally learned to love myself.

To the Mother who Struggles, I Promise You: This Too Shall Pass

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I was twenty-one years-old when my first son entered the world. He came early; two weeks before his expected date, and with such haste the midwife delivered him before the doctor made an appearance. After him, there were three more – my second son and two daughters, all within six years, all with their own birth stories, their own personalities, their own idiosyncrasies that make them unmistakably who they are; vastly different from one another despite being raised so symmetrically.

I hadn’t planned on having my first child so soon; life had chosen otherwise. Though married, I was young. In hindsight, too young. But, I was determined to be prepared. I read pregnancy books, birthing books, parenting books. I was prepared for the ways my body would change. I was prepared for the ways my life would change.

But I wasn’t prepared for the ways I would change.

I can say now that being a mother has been the best thing I have ever done; the best part of who I am. But I couldn’t always have said that. I glance back to those early days and my fingers slip through the faded recollection of how difficult they actually were; a decade that passed me by through a filter of exhaustion and loneliness. There were so many days I struggled for air, so many days I wept for the village that was nowhere to be found; moreover, wept for the woman I once was, also nowhere to be found. I grieved for her – the responsibilities and obligations of motherhood had taken her from me and in her place stood a foreigner, a woman I no longer recognised or wanted to be.

I hadn’t expected to feel such a loss of my own identity, to become so desolate in the abyss of who I used to be and who I had yet to become. I hadn’t expected to feel so unanchored, so adrift, so alone. Once extroverted, confident and capable, I soon found myself flailing helplessly in an ocean of my own inadequacies.

We lived on a 2500-acre farm in rural South Australia, aka the middle of nowhere, or so it seemed. I had no family close by, no support network to turn to. While my friends undertook university courses, careers, travel, I no longer even seemed capable to leave the house without deteriorating into a mire of irrational anxiety. Exhausted, burnt out, worn out, I lost my confidence, my capabilities, my ambition, my passion, and most days it appeared, my mind, too.

It wasn’t an issue of love; a woman’s heart will never beat with such fierceness as for that which she has created within herself. It was the belief that because I loved my children, I should love being a mother. But I didn’t. All I felt was the loneliness, the isolation, the invisibility, the loss of self, the ambivalence, the exhaustion, the guilt, the shame of all I lacked. Every night I would collapse into bed, overcome with guilt that I couldn’t be what they needed me to be, that I wasn’t as capable as other mothers, that I wasn’t enough. I would lie awake, despondent, reciting promises in my head – tomorrow I will try harder, tomorrow I will do better. But always, they fell short. Always, I fell short.

I wasn’t prepared for those feelings, for the mental and emotional upheaval that came with being a mother. These were the things not written in books, the things nobody speaks of because we’re all too busy being ashamed of our scarcity, too worried everything we feel is wrong, too afraid of being judged by those we compare ourselves to. When little do we know, they too stand inside the valley of their own inadequacies and break apart for how short they believe they fall in their comparison to us.

This year I will celebrate my sixteenth Mother’s Day. It has taken me this long to find the joy in being a mother. To no longer wake each morning to the words – this too shall pass – scrawled on sticky-notes on my bathroom mirror. To love and appreciate all my children bring to my life. To understand what it means to hold, first in my womb and now in my arms, the next generation – a generation I have been given the privilege to teach of compassion, tolerance, respect, kindness, goodness, love. A generation of world-changers.

It’s taken sixteen years to understand that being a mother is not something we are, but something we become. As we watch our children grow and learn from us, likewise, we grow and learn from them. They awaken us; force us to pay attention as we tread upon unsure ground, help us find our footing and become decided in our steps even when we walk in darkness. They soften our hard edges as they teach us of patience, sacrifice, unconditional love. They help us forgive our own humanity through the grace we offer theirs. They show us what it means to love as a result of the love they give to us, even when we are undeserving of such a profuse gift – especially when we are undeserving of such a profuse gift – and because of that, we are found better.

There is no way, sixteen years ago, I could have been prepared for the ways being a mother would change me. But nor could I have ever been prepared for the way my children would become the most beautiful part of everything I am today.

Original article published at SA Life Magazine

Sunday Ramblings and Wide Open Spaces

It’s the last day of school holidays here, and as much as I love the time with my babies home, I am so restless at this point to get back into routine, back into writing, and to find some much needed solitude. It seems I’ve become quite accustomed to my working week, which is spent mostly on my own; having others around 24/7 – even my own children – has proven challenging, and I have found my only sanity has been stealing away each afternoon for a long bike ride in this glorious autumn sunshine.

Riding this afternoon, I was reflecting on my journey of wanting to live a more wholehearted life, and how exercise has been such a huge part of that – a huge part of who I am, of what ignites my joy and passion, what makes me come alive, what propels my motivation and focus, and also how vital it has been for managing my PTSD.

Recently I’ve had a couple of injuries – a torn disc in my lower back and a torn hamstring, both of which have seen me unable to exercise for a fairly long period of time. During these times of no exercise, much of the wholehearted living thing has gone amiss; instead I have only managed to live half-heartedly. I lost my joy and passion, my energy and motivation, and my mental health struggled immensely – I feel as though in not being able to do something I love so much, I lost a huge part of myself.

My love of exercise has never been about the exercise itself. I don’t know what I weigh nor do I care what size my clothes are – in this Instagram world I’m not interested in competing to be the fittest or the thinnest, there are already enough women pitting themselves against one other rather than cheering each other along to be the best version of ourselves we can be. I refuse to let numbers define my worth and I will raise my daughters to know their value lies in so much more than this world’s unattainable standard of beauty.

Exercise for me is about movement, energy, freedom, exuberance. It’s soaking sunshine into my bones and gulping fresh air into my lungs. It’s about feeling healthy and strong in body, spirit and mind; finding wide open spaces where I can renew my spirit and connect once more to myself (which, let’s face it, usually means connecting to the 14 year-old tomboy in me who loved to fang around on BMX tracks – long live her zealous spirit). It’s about doing something I love; taking time out of my busy, responsible life which mostly involves caring for other people, and choosing to care for myself. It’s about deliberately choosing to live a wholehearted life – to embrace life and not just survive it.

After what has been quite a long recovery time, I’m so damn thankful and overjoyed to be able to exercise again (which, SA peeps, can’t recommend the amazing people at Adelaide Advanced Physiotherapy enough), to feel like myself once more, to find joy in each day again.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman.

Here’s to a fresh new shiny term and embracing each day with wholehearted abandon.

K x

Leave Me Here In The Wilderness

Leave me here in the wilderness,

let me wander upon lost paths

where fallen limbs and bracken

cause my feet to stumble astray,

deeper down the unknown roads

that lead me further into myself.

Let my soul become entangled

with ivy and creeper and vine

as it twines through damp forest

and twists around my sad anguish.

Let moss grow upon my shadows

until sunlight warms my bitter grief.

Let me grope through darkness,

and my heart taste its sour wrath

as it unleashes, wild and savage,

upon the fury of its torn injustice,

until there is only hushed silence

broken by the weep of surrender.

Let my spirit be found crushed

in valleys of dust and drought.

Let me be consumed with thirst

as I wait upon winds of the earth

to breathe life into my dry bones

and mend me back to abundance.

Do not take my hand and lead me

from this journey I choose to abide,

but leave me here in the wilderness

where for now, I must live untamed,

for I am young, and so very broken,

and there is still much to be learned.

~ © Kathy Parker ~

The Unravelled Heart, a profoundly true reflection on trauma, abuse, love, loss and healing, now available worldwide on Amazon http://amzn.to/2BIvFhp

Day Twenty-Three #poemadayfeb: Sonnet

I fling the light from behind my eyes

As an offering to the star-filled night

Veiled in the affliction of my demise

May darkness take captive my sight.

That I cannot see the sorrow of grief

Just one night free from these thorns

Blood abandons my side with no relief

How wearily my wasted heart mourns.

Sleep is aloof in these arms of regret

She comforts me like a cheap whore

The barren hours won’t let me forget

Shattered pieces I can never restore.

But when this broken night is through,

My love, may I be no more lost to you.

~ ©️ Kathy Parker // Sonnet for the Sleepless ~

Day Twenty-Three #poemadayfeb: Sonnet

Day Ten #poemadayfeb: Promise

That we would be an old house restored

with fresh paint and newly hung curtains.

That the roof would be replaced and the

cracks in the wall would be re-plastered

so we would no longer be susceptible to

the bitter winds that blew from the south.

That we would work hard to maintain this

house so it would no longer be a burden

for our weary hands to constantly repair.

And these were the promises you spoke

when we no longer knew how to believe.

We sat amongst the ruins and wrapped

our hands around cups of tea instead of

each other and grasped for a promise

we knew would never be more than

makeshift words.

~ ©️ Kathy Parker // Makeshift Words ~

Day Ten #poemadayfeb: Promise